Blanket Exercise participants listening as participant Brad Gallamore reads a “scroll”, as part of the exercise. Photo Elaina John
The organizations Vermilion Unites For Equality and They Build Bridges banded together on August 22 to host a blanket exercise.
Blanket Exercise facilitators and organizers of They Build Bridges, Kevin John and Debbie Semeniuk, have done numerous blanket exercises, but this is the first one they’ve put on in affiliation with Vermilion Unites For Equality.
A Blanket Exercise is an immersive educational experience in which participants represent Indigenous peoples and facilitators narrate the history of oppression inflicted on Indigenous people during the colonization of Canada. As the exercise continues the blankets representing Canada change to represent small, segregated First Nations reserves. At the end of the exercise, participants are brought together in a traditional First Nations sharing circle where they can share their thoughts on the exercise and their personal experiences.
“There’s a triple discrimination just to be myself,” shared Ashleigh Cardinal, a Two-Spirit Cree Anti-Racism activist.
“The wrath of residential schools and colonization-all of that, is still felt,” Cardinal later added during her time in the sharing circle.
The event was originally going to be outside in the Lakeland College football field, but due to weather forecasting, was relocated to the Ag Society Butler Building. Due to the nature of the exercise, social distancing could not occur, however, participants and facilitators wore masks and gloves, and had hand sanitizer readily available.